It was a love that, for Carly Scott, lasted long after the break-up. No matter how badly her ex-boyfriend Steven Capobianco treated her, she still came running when he called. Falling pregnant with his baby was just another connection that meant she couldn’t break free.
Charli, as she was known by her family and friends, met Steven in 2009. They lived together for two years in Makawao, on the beautiful Hawaiian island of Maui. But while red-haired Charli was smitten with her boyfriend, Steven would tell his friends they were just roommates and he avoided having his photo taken with her.
Compassionate and thoughtful Charli deserved more. She was always happily singing out loud and going out of her way to make people feel special. She would experiment with hair colours and pin-up style clothes – and loved to refer to herself as a unicorn. Wise beyond her years, Charli often gave people advice. But she was blind when it came to Steven.
When the couple broke up, Steven found a new girlfriend but continued to have sex with Charli. She was under his spell and loved him, despite knowing he didn’t care about her in the same way.
As she struggled to move on, Charli, 27, fell pregnant with Steven’s baby. Her maternal instinct kicked in and she couldn’t wait to become a mum. She found out she was having a boy and named him Joshua. But Steven, 24, wasn’t so keen on becoming a dad. He wanted Charli to have an abortion, but she refused.
On February 9, 2014, Charli got a call from Steven saying he’d broken down and needed help getting his car out of a ditch. Dutifully, five-months pregnant Charli jumped in her
car with her dog Nala. She never returned.
The next day, her family reported her missing. Steven admitted Charli had come to his aid. After fixing a battery cable, she’d helped him get his truck out of the ditch. He said she’d followed behind him in case he broke down again. He saw her lights before losing sight of her, but he assumed she’d got home safely.
Had she had an accident?
The community came out in force to search for her. Nala was found wandering abandoned, but safe. Then a few days later, Charli’s SUV was found burnt-out in a rural area. It was a devastating discovery and suggested foul play.
Steven, the last person to see Charli alive, was interviewed again. He was recorded referring to Charli in the past tense – despite no evidence that she was dead. When asked about whether he was happy that his ex-girlfriend was pregnant, he admitted that he wasn’t ‘thrilled’ about it.
“It’s not what I was planning on doing at 24,” he said. “I’m a 24-year-old male who has a dog and I can barely keep me and my dog.” But he went on to say that he’d come round to the idea.
As family searched, Charli’s half-sister found her blood-stained skirt and bra in a remote area off the highway. When police searched the site further, they found part of Charli’s jawbone, clumps of her red hair and her fingertips. Experts later testified that her injuries were likely inflicted by someone attacking her with a sharp object or knife
– to essentially de-flesh the bone.
All hope was lost for Charli and her unborn baby. Investigators also found torn clothing similar to what Steven had been wearing on the night Charli vanished.
In July 2014, Steven was arrested. Despite there being no complete body, the police announced that Charli was dead. When Steven pleaded not guilty in court, he was wearing a neck brace after being assaulted by a fellow inmate. Emotions were running high on the small island.
At the trial in 2016, the prosecution showed the court what was left of Charli’s black skirt. It had been punctured below the waist band over 20 times. They said the knife had been plunged in time and time again – right into Charli’s pregnancy bump. They said Steven was the only one with motive, opportunity and intent. He didn’t want to be a dad. Why else was the attack focused on the abdomen?
The defence said the police had been too quick to look at Steven as the culprit. They suggested Steven had lied about his car breaking down to cover up a marijuana deal he’d conducted. It seemed unlikely.
The trial lasted six months and the deliberations took three weeks, but the jury’s verdict was unanimous. In December 2016, Steven was found guilty of second-degree murder and second-degree arson after torching Charli’s car.
When asked whether the crime was ‘especially heinous, atrocious and cruel’, they replied ‘yes’, making him eligible for a life sentence without the chance of parole. That sentence was passed down in March this year, bringing to a close the most high-profile murder case the state had ever seen.
The Wailuku courtroom was packed with Charli’s loved ones who were desperate to express to Steven the devastation of
“I feel like everybody’s expecting to be able to move on after today,” her sister Fiona Wais said. “We’re hoping for it, but there’s no moving on.”
Charli’s mum Kimberlyn spoke about her daughter’s deep love for Steven and how she’d defended him to her family saying he’d been hurt and she wanted to help him.
“I pitied you,” Kimberlyn said to her daughter’s killer. “Then I realised, Steven, you did have love. You had her. And you know what you did with that love? You stabbed it 27 times. You cut it into pieces. You destroyed it. You destroyed the only love you will
Steven, then 26, refused to make a statement.
Judge Cardoza told him his actions were ‘calculated and self-centred’. That he’d killed Charli because he didn’t want to be a father. As Steven was led away, the court heard calls of, “Where is she, Steven?”
Charli’s body has never been found and it is torture for her family. All they want to do is bring her, and her son, home. They continue to try and find her, and fight for changes in the law that would recognise foetal homicide.